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Split review #9 - 54%

UCTYKAH, September 1st, 2012

Cool-cool. Blackmetal.com put out something resembling an NSBM album. Way to jump the bandwagon! Surely they seek out bands for their music as opposed to ideology, but it is a little surprising they could not have snapped up something less mediocre, even if they are not the most discernable label out there. I know, I know. In the age of oversaturation, the internet, mass spiritual anemia et. al. - it is "lemon difficult" (TM), yes. And no one is immune, yes. Good for these two bands, though, for this is the most exposure the NSBMsters from Geimhre (whose members are behind both projects) will most likely ever get.

NSBM as a subgenre can be valid on purely musical level, and there are recordings to prove that. Fullmoon's "United Aryan Evil" and "Gontyna Kry's "Welowie" demos, for instance, still remain NSBM pillars in my books. The accusations of being too life-affirming to be real black metal still haunt the genre, however. Not that it all matters much in an era where hipsters wearing Graveland tees hang out at Grand Belial Key's reunion gigs or Nokturnal Mortum kick out blues jams in the middle of their pagan symphonies on their latest album. The times, they are a-changin', but also spin around in circles. But it could be argued that the vast majority of NSBM often lacks the truly dark and deeply negative side of what black metal represents (or rather - used to), going back to when Rob Darken first intertwined folk sensibility into his raw black metal aesthetic on Graveland's classic albums. As innovative as it was at the time, it could be stated that it also brought forth a certain humanly völkisch factor that was alien to the misanthropic essence of what black metal purportedly stood for. In other words, this is where the ideological bent, the pro-life, socialist, nationalist etc. variable came out and rubbed off on the music. That still does not physically prevent NS bands from being as grim and misanthropic as possible, yet it does not happen very often. Perhaps because these bands tend to look up to Burzum first and foremost, and only then to Darkthrone, much less to Mayhem. Which might explain big emphasis on atmospheric transcendence that better NSBM, from signature Blazebirth Hall albums to recordings by obscure American groups like Fanisk or Veil, appear to strive for. Bands on this here split release cannot reach nearly that far or high and end up in the neighborhood allocated for NSBM fodder, even if they are placed somewhere closer to the top of the heap than the other way around.

Band #1: Fomorii is Geimhre cohorts' collective spin off band, which dumped a couple of demo recordings on the issuing label's lap and called it a day. I can honestly state that out of seven presented tracks I enjoyed exactly three and a half, chiefly because on three of those tracks the band was not doing black metal. "Sidhe" and "March of the King Laoise" focus on the folk/ethnic side of Celtic heritage: simple bagpipe-percussion interplay on the latter and a very nice, pro-sounding in comparison to everything else, probably "Braveheart" inspired, soundtrack-like instrumental on the former. Both of these are most likely lifted from outside sources, though. The middle interlude of the band's own making titled "The Curse of Macha" is not too bad either: tranquil, folksy electric guitar strumming, distant and sparse airy keys, children's choir towards the end, pensive mood, some emotional weight and so forth. It's nice - what can I say? What these three pieces beautify, however, appear to be tracks from two different sessions, which sound cardinally different from each other.

"Fomorii: Eiric and Leagail" and "Comhla Chun Bas" boast tinny guitar and hollow drum sounds, loads of reverb, overreliance on cymbals, crappy vocal performances (both clean and, er, unclean) and bland songwriting. Some riffs are ok, if you would actually care to make then out, but very typical of its kind. On tracks "Belatucadnos" and "Tech Duinn" our Canuck patriots drop the reverb, sharply saturate the guitar tone, bring forth the drums, up the speed, begin to scream in a fuller and harder manner and generally undergo quite a cosmetic overhaul to the point of almost being unrecognizable. Credit is certainly due for such chameleonic, Bowie-esque turnout. They keep bits of crappy, fake Viking vocals but not too much. Probably in order to equalize the amount of awkward moments with the first two black metal tracks, the Fomorii gang inexplicably decide to insert samples of bleating goats on "Belatucadnos". They like the idea so much, they do it twice on the course of that track. Perhaps Impaled Nazarene albums were in heavy rotation during that recording session. After all, the music suddenly became so much more aggressive and in your face. Songwriting is still a bit of a problem, although I am willing to get behind "Tech Duinn" and actually proclaim it to be a reasonably successful piece (this is where the missing half comes from) that actually possesses a good base riff. Choosing an owl sample for this track is a bit more palatable also, so one horn up for that!

Band #2: Wiatr - Polish for "Wind" (it appears there are many metal musicians with Polish roots in Canada) - is an eponymous vanity project of a single Geimhre member, and it turns out to be a more consistent entity, what with considerably richer and more expansive guitar sound, quite decent raw production and pleasant, if a bit bland, acoustic interludes. Wiatr maintains reverb for his vocals but places and performs them way more professionally than his counterparts. Songwriting still ain't that great, utilizing rather overused Nordic/Viking riffing all throughout. These pieces are still better thought-out and put together than those of Fomorii and are not without even some mild epic pretension, dare I say. Another positively contributing aspect here is classy blending of acoustic guitar picking (and even something of an acoustic soloing on track VI) right amidst every black metal epicenter, during breaks and otherwise - not too far off from the fellow Canadian SIG:AR:TYR in approach, though less classically proficient. A cover version of Temnozor's "White Thunder Roars" is also included. Wiatr actually does a fairly imaginative job (luckily the source material is not very complex) substituting arrangements (flute parts, for example) that he either could not or did not want to directly replicate (by using his acoustic and some synth instead), without offending Temnozor's fan boys in the process. I'd single out track VI as a highlight of Wiatr's abilities and would add V's acoustic strumming to that package in order to kind of complete the winning tandem.

Final verdict: middle of the road stuff. Fomorii attempt to lead a multifaceted attack, open too many fronts simultaneously and do not get much done as a result. Wiatr, being a one man act, dashes for a more rounded and consummate strike but lacks enough ammo and keenness of wit to pull it off. Hence, the suggested purchasing price: $3.99 and below.